The theme of this year’s Children’s Week centres on Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, notably that ‘Children have the right to relax, play and take part in activities they enjoy’.
A key focus of my work as the ACT Children and Young People Commissioner is seeking to ensure that Canberra is the best place it can be for our children and young people. Importantly, in bringing life to that goal, we need to understand what children and young people themselves say they need and not assume that we have all the answers.
To that end, and in support of this year’s Children’s Week theme, my team and I are currently engaging children and young people in conversations about their right to play and obtaining their views about what we need to do to ensure our play and recreation spaces are accessible. Already we have heard from over 800 children and young people. And we have more conversations planned over the coming months ahead of Children’s Week. It is clear already that children and young people view accessibility through a lens that encompasses matters such as inclusivity, safety, disability, neurodiversity, affordability, transport, and more.
We have heard some creative ideas from children about how to create recreation spaces for multiple purposes thereby extending their utility to more than just play spaces for children. They have also been keenly interested in inclusive play spaces that enable children and young people with diverse needs to engage alongside their peers. Older young people have similarly commented on the need for recreation spaces that cater to a broader range of diversity and have raised a social conscience concern about the use of anti- homelessness features. The safety of recreation spaces has also been a key feature alongside the need for better maintenance of toilet facilities, and a preference for unisex bathrooms. Children and young people clearly have an interest in, and the skills to be part of, identifying and deciding the solutions that will work best for them. I look forward to hearing more about the accessibility of our play and recreation spaces, and to helping turn their ideas into action.
As always, I would like to extend my support to the ACT Children’s Week Committee, and I look forward to being part of the 2023 Children’s Week celebrations.
Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner
ACT Human Rights Commission